Voices of Minnesota: Vern Mikkelsen and Dr. Jim Mootz

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Hour 2 of Midmorning featuring Vern Mikkelsen and the Lakers basketball Hall of Fame, as well as Dr. Jim Mootz of Winona State on grades versus competency and NPR's Steve Rowland on Frank Zappa.


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KAREN BARTA: From the FM News Station, I'm Karen Barta. A report by the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota says a student's knowledge and skills should be part of the criteria for high school graduation, not just grades and credits. Joe Nathan, director of the university's Center for School Change, says colleges can help high schools adopt new graduation standards by adjusting their admissions criteria. Nathan says colleges tend to focus on an applicant's course credits and grades. Nathan says the new study found high schools have to do more than simply change their graduation requirements to ensure students acquire necessary skills and knowledge.

JOE NATHAN: One of the central things that high schools have said to us all over the country, if they're going to be successful in requiring kids to demonstrate skills before they graduate, is that the high schools really have to set priorities. One of the problems with American high schools is that they have been pushed to be all things to all people. And these high schools have said, we have to really concentrate on the basics, and a few other things, if we're going to make sure that virtually every youngster attains those skills.

KAREN BARTA: The report is based on a study of 29 high schools in 17 states. Slightly more than half of Twin Cities residents favor voluntary desegregation of local schools, but a Star Tribune WCCO Minnesota poll found 70% are against mandatory desegregation. Authorities are trying to determine what caused a plane to crash on takeoff yesterday in Breezy Point. Three men injured in the crash remain hospitalized today.

State forecast, partly sunny. Highs from the middle 50s in the far northeast to the middle 70s in the southwest. For the Twin Cities, partly sunny with a high around 70. Around the region this hour, it's sunny in Rochester. The current temperature is 60 degrees. Duluth is reporting 50. It's 57 in St. Cloud and 63 in the Twin Cities. That's news. I'm Karen Barta on the FM News Station.


PAULA SCHROEDER: Six minutes now past 10 o'clock. You're listening to Midmorning. Today's programming is made possible in part by the advocates of Minnesota Public Radio. Contributors include the Bayport Foundation, which is supported by the Andersen Corporation.

Well, former Minneapolis Laker Vern Mikkelsen is being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, today. And this morning, we'll hear recollections of his career as part of our series of interviews with well-known and influential Minnesotans. Mikkelsen is now in his mid-60s. He played for the Minneapolis Lakers in the early 1950s. Mikkelsen and his Laker teammates, led by center George Mikan and Coach John Kundla, dominated professional basketball from 1945 to 1955. They were the superstars of their era.

Mikkelsen now lives in Minnetonka with his wife. He was a child of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. His father was a Danish Lutheran preacher. The family moved from town to town, living in California, Wisconsin, and Montana. The family landed in Askov, near Duluth, where Mikkelsen graduated from high school. 16-year-old Vern Mikkelsen won a scholarship to Hamline University in St. Paul, where he was center on the basketball team. Mikkelsen told the FM News Station's Greg Magnuson he didn't know anything about basketball when he moved to Askov.

VERN MIKKELSEN: I never knew what a basketball game was until we moved to Askov. I'd never played the game. I'd never seen the game before 1939. Matter of fact, the first day I was in town, they had built a new gym up there. And a bunch of kids were playing basketball, and I asked if I could get in it, and sure. And I got the ball and I ran with it to the basket. They said, hey, you're traveling. I didn't know what traveling was. Anyway.

And I wasn't a big kid then, really. I didn't start growing until about my-- when I say growing, I didn't know I was going to be taller than most people until about my senior year in high school. So I had the good fortune of playing the game in all aspects, back court, front court. It wasn't just a matter of being the biggest kid in the team.

Of course, the other advantage of playing, or going to a small school, is that it's not a matter of making the team. It's not a matter of being able to play the instrument well enough to be in the band, to be in the class play, to be on the school paper. Everybody has to do it. And I could tell my kids about it. That's the great, great thing about small schools. You get a chance to do all of it.

GREG MAGNUSON: How were you viewed as a graduating senior after four years playing at Hamline? Was your name well-known? Were you sought after by professional basketball teams throughout the country?

VERN MIKKELSEN: The four years at Hamline stood me in wonderful stead for my future, whether it was basketball or just life in general. A small four-year liberal arts college. And of course, I didn't realize it till later what a huge, huge sacrifice this was on my parents' part. Small town, only church in town, Danish Lutheran, and the pastor sends his son to a Methodist institution. Now, that's heavy-duty back in those days. But he saw something there. He recognized something.

And of course, the other thing was there was no money. Not just little money, no money. And Hamline agreed that they would give me a scholarship for my tuition. I worked for my board and room, outside jobs. And that was the key to it. The basketball was really just a part of the whole rounding-out effect. I sang in the Hamline choir, which was unusual in that era and still is. Most of the choir participants are music majors. I enjoyed it. I liked it. And because of, again, the lack of male voices right at the end of World War II, I was given that opportunity.

GREG MAGNUSON: What was your major in college?

VERN MIKKELSEN: I majored in physical education. Teaching degree. Intended fully to go into teaching, high school teaching. And then for several summers while I was playing ball, I went over to the University of Minnesota, and I got a master's degree over there in psychology. I was preparing myself for leading a normal life.

I was very afraid of-- I'd seen friends. I had seen, particularly in baseball, young athletes. They play the game for 10 years, and then obviously your body wears out. You can't maintain that thing. And then what do you do? You turn around and look for something to do. And I wanted to make sure that wouldn't happen with me.

GREG MAGNUSON: How was it that you ended up with the Lakers, though? Was there a draft in those days, or were you recruited as a free agent, or how did it work?

VERN MIKKELSEN: There was a draft similar to what there is today, except they don't have it as complicated, and they don't have the lottery and the balls in the hopper and all that. The design of the draft in any pro sport is obvious-- the worst team has to have an opportunity to improve. So the worst team in the league gets the first choice, supposedly.

But in those days, they had one other rule which said that every team has a territorial right, which they can use instead of their draft choice. And that calls for anyone within a 50-miles radius of that team, you have first grabs on. So they exercised that right, and that's where I was drafted by the Lakers.

GREG MAGNUSON: How much was your first contract worth?

VERN MIKKELSEN: It was worth $6,000. And most people, they just shake their heads and say, how could you play for such a paltry sum? No, this was all right. Remember now, everything's relative. 1949, I signed a contract for $6,000. Now, if I'd gone the direction that I had been educated for, my best friend and roommate and teammate at Hamline went out and got the best coaching job in the state of Minnesota available for $2,000.

OK. $2,000, $6,000. That's $4,000 difference. And now to put it in perspective, particularly for all the younger listeners, I also got a $1,500 bonus. And I went out and bought a brand-new Pontiac. Paid cash for it.

GREG MAGNUSON: You talked a little bit about the life of a pro athlete, and I'm curious what conditions were like back then, in terms of the arenas you played in, the locker rooms you changed in, the hotels you stayed in, the modes of transportation for road trips. It had to be a little bit different than professional athletes deal with today.

VERN MIKKELSEN: Oh, very much so. And when I talk to some of these guys today, I start talking about how tough it was in the old days. And then I get that glazed-over look and I stop, because nobody really cares, particularly the guys that are-- they got their own problems today. But we can measure very definitely the differences. And one was, early on particularly, that we did most of our travel by train.

One of our major opponents was Rochester Royals, upper New York State, of Rochester, New York. And as an example, their big night was a Saturday night, which they tried to put their future attractions on. Our big night was Sunday night back here. Well, to get from-- we'd play in Rochester, New York, on a Saturday night. We'd have to rush from the game, down to the train station, flag down the New York Central coming out of New York City on the way to Chicago.

We'd get on about 10:30 at night, overnight to Chicago on the train. And you just got done playing the game. Even when you're in the best of accommodations, you don't get any rest till 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Your whole system is just terribly hyped-up. On the train all night to Chicago, then a huge dash across town to LaSalle Street Station to catch either the Zephyr or the Hiawatha or the 400. Now, people my age will remember these. They were the luxury trains from Chicago to Minneapolis, but it was seven hours.

Get here about 4:30 in the afternoon, and then go right to the arena and play a game that night, because Sunday night was a big game. Now, the big problem would come if there was an overtime game in Rochester. I remember one time we had to play overtime. We finally win the game. Now, the train is already in the station waiting for us, because we got 12 people and they still wanted to sell those tickets. They held the train for us. We didn't even get a chance to shower. We just put overcoats on, middle of winter, grabbed our clothes and our bags and went to the train station, got on.

It turned out it was one of those old, old sleeping cars with the curtains. And somebody had fouled up the tickets, and we all had to sleep in the upper berths. But all our gear was dripping wet and we hung it up over the railings of these curtains, and the next morning this thing smelled like an absolute locker room that hadn't been cleaned for three weeks. And the people that were already in the place, I think they all wanted their money back. But that's an example. And tough, yeah. It was tough. But we didn't know any better. This was what the deal was.

GREG MAGNUSON: Discuss a little bit more about your relationship with George Mikan. Of course, a legend, and still widely remembered as one of, if not the best center to play the game. What kind of guy is he, and what was your relationship with him?

VERN MIKKELSEN: It was marvelous. It was good. We hear all these stories about, well, rookies have to pay their dues, and they got to carry the bags and aren't included in the group. Well, I mentioned earlier, three of us were rookies the first year. And we were joining two superstars, Jim Pollard and George Mikan, but George was the much more renowned guy. East Coast, West Coast, this guy couldn't walk into a place without being inundated.

But he insisted that we would go as a group if we were going someplace. He was invited to a party, he invited us along. Sometimes this caused a problem. I remember a New Year's Eve in Tri-Cities where he'd been invited over to somebody's very fancy house for the New Year's Eve party after the game, and he invited us all along.

And the hostess met us at the door. She had no idea that there were going to be 10 guys that were six, seven, and bigger joining the party. But this again was George Mikan, and he insisted that we all are included. We're going to a movie, we're going together. We have a problem, let's sit down and figure it out. Let's talk about it.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Vern Mikkelsen, a former star forward for the Minneapolis Lakers, talking with the FM News Station's Greg Magnuson. Mikkelsen is being inducted today into the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame. You're listening to this interview on Midmorning on the FM News Station. I'm Paula Schroeder. It's 18 minutes now past 10 o'clock. We continue our interview with Vern Mikkelsen.

Well, Mikkelsen, his star teammate George Mikan, and the others on the Lakers dominated pro basketball for a decade. They won four NBA championships in five years. Mikkelsen told Greg Magnuson the game then was vastly different from what it is now. They were entering an era when the color barrier in pro basketball would end, and the rules were being rewritten because of the offensive power of George Mikan.

VERN MIKKELSEN: Because of him, they changed the rule. Old timers will remember the three-second lane, which now they call the paint, and they've got it painted black or blue or red or whatever it is. An offensive player can only stay in there three seconds. That was only six feet wide. Because of George, they moved it out to 10 feet, because they didn't want him that close to the basket. I've never known of a sport that has made a rule legislating against an athlete.

Then they moved it to 12 feet wide, and then 15 feet. Well, what this has done-- and the next time you watch a game on the tube, you'll see how wide open that thing is underneath there. That's 15 feet where there's a lot of room to move. People go slashing through there, these marvelous displays of athletic ability. Well, we had people that could do that in our day, but because of this thing being crowded in like it was, it just didn't happen.

And then the other thing, they wouldn't allow us to dunk the ball. We could not dunk it. There was a rule against having your hand over the rim on the offensive board, and therefore, it wasn't done. And there's different opinions on this. I think it's a spectacular part of the game. I think a lot of the fans enjoy it, and they see some things.

The other people, and I call them the purists, they don't like change for anything. They want it the way it was back when Naismith first started the game. They'd probably like to have the peach basket up there and the stepladder to get the ball out of it. But things do change.

And then the other thing that happened that has affected the game was the 24-second clock. We played a game here in the Minneapolis Auditorium. We got beat by Fort Wayne, 19 to 18. And if every person that says they were there that I've talked to in the last 35 years, there would have been 60,000 people in there. But that was the one that precipitated the 24-second clock. Good rule. Perfect rule. Couldn't stall. Can't hold the ball.

GREG MAGNUSON: I look around your wonderful den here, and I see lots of posters and team pictures. And there aren't a lot of Black players included. When was the color barrier broken in pro basketball, in the NBA, and how did that situation evolve?

VERN MIKKELSEN: The first Black player was Charlie Cooper, I think in 1952. Now, so your listeners can put this in perspective, I played from 1949 to 1959, and he was the one and only for several years. And it's interesting you bring that up, because when my kids were growing up, they'd bring their friends into my den, and I had our team pictures there. And I had never even thought of it, not even giving it a second thought, and they all said the same thing. Where are the-- there are no Black kids, which there weren't.

These guys were not able to play because they weren't allowed to go to the colleges. They couldn't get that background. The only place a good Black athlete could go is the Globetrotters. This was when they were starting to come in. Oscar Robertson was right in that era, a guy who was just a marvelous, marvelous athlete. But Elgin Baylor was just a super athlete, and we had Boo Ellis, and we had Eddie Fleming. Nice, nice kids.

And regarding the Black issue-- and to this day, I've never asked Elgin about it. I haven't had an opportunity to. But we were playing a game-- again, Bob Short playing wherever we could get a guarantee. Charleston, West Virginia, 1959. We go into the hotel to check in and the clerk is checking everybody in, and they look up, and you guys can't stay here. The Black kids. Not take them aside and whisper in their ear, even. They weren't even trying to be nice, and they weren't being disrespectful either. They just said, hey, you guys can't stay here. Flat out. Unequivocal.

So we got our heads together and we concluded, Kundla and the other senior members of the team, that this is a team. We all stick together. They won't let everybody stay in this hotel, we won't stay in the hotel. We take our bags, go out on the sidewalk, get some cabs, go across town, across the tracks. And again, to not a very welcome area of town. But we stayed there where we could all stay. But that night, Elgin Baylor refused to play the game in protest.

And we were upset with him, simply because at that end of the season any position in the standings reflects where you go into the playoffs, and one win or a loss at that stage was very important to us, and our star superstar wasn't going to play. Very upsetting to us. Because OK, we understand your concern, and you're right. But we agreed to solve the problem by going across the tracks. I'm reasonably certain, and I cannot say this with any certainty, that this was one of the beginnings of the realization that here was a vehicle that the minorities had to make a statement.

GREG MAGNUSON: Team owner Bob Short made it tough for you to decide not to continue on. Can you tell that story?

VERN MIKKELSEN: Yes. And my kids still do give me a bad time about that one, but just so all of you young people do know that we make decisions based on what we think is the right information at the right time. But Bob Short, I'd quit. I had left the team. I was in business here. And he moved the team to Los Angeles the next year. And he wanted me to go out there as the player coach, and I didn't. I just didn't even want to talk to him about it.

And he kept badgering and kept insisting that I had to have a price. And I finally said, OK, I will, but I want $50,000. And he says, I can't afford you. And I said, see? And so, Jean, I says, let's go home. We were having dinner over at one of the nice country clubs. And he said, wait a second, wait a second, sit down.

So he says, OK. He says, here's what I'll do. And he says, I'll give you $25,000, and I'll give you 25% of the ball club. Well, I thought about that. And I says, well, I don't think your team is going to get to Sioux Falls, much less to Los Angeles. And he didn't think that was very funny. And I guess it wasn't. But five years later, headlines in the paper, Short sells Lakers for $5.5 million. And it doesn't take a math major to figure out that 25%-- see, I had a shot at those million-dollar deals back in 1960, just like the guys today.

If I had known, number one, that Jerry West was going to be drafted the next year, if I had realized that the West Coast was just opening up because of the jet travel, if I looked into the fact that 20 million people in Southern California, if you put on a race with three mice on middle of Santa Monica Boulevard on a Sunday morning, there's going to be someone there to watch it. If I'd known all those things-- it's the old story. Ifs and buts and candy and nuts, and every day would be Christmas, you know. [CHUCKLES]

GREG MAGNUSON: What do you think playing basketball has taught you about life?

VERN MIKKELSEN: Well, the one thing that is an absolute-- this isn't even a guess-- that it takes teamwork to get along. Whether you're playing on a team of basketball players or raising a family, making a marriage work, doing your daily work. You have to get along with all the people that you're involved in, and basketball just simply exemplifies it.

GREG MAGNUSON: Much has been made of the fact that these kids who show a little bit of talent at an early age and dream of becoming a professional athlete, but so few of them actually make it that far. Do you have any advice to parents about dealing with their kids who want to do nothing but pursue an athletic career at an early age and maybe ignore their studies, or at least their studies suffer as a result?

VERN MIKKELSEN: We can give all kinds of advice, and it's a very difficult thing to pinpoint. I think the first thing that you want to tell your youngster, and we tried to do this, don't put your wishes on your kids. I've seen frequently where a parent or parents who wanted to be but couldn't for whatever reason, they want to live through their children in the world of sports.

There are all kinds of other things, but insist that they are involved. That's what happened to our kids. They liked basketball. They liked all kinds of other things, too. They were doing all the other stuff. And be sure that you encourage them to be involved. And if they seem to think that a sport is particular for them, then encourage them.

Also, remember that a lot of times, you have to be the best at all these levels in order to make that very narrow pinnacle that comes at the top, and you have to be prepared. And that's another reason that playing different sports is good for you. You learn to lose gracefully, if you want to use that term. That you can't win every game. You have to get up in the morning and do your other things. That you have a long life ahead of you. That there are only so many people that can make a living out of a sport.

You may have all the talent in the world. But you may break a leg. You may have something happen. You may go with a team that doesn't need you. You have to be ready for all the other things that happen in life. And that certainly is the education that goes along with it, or the exposure to things that you might want to do other than sports.

GREG MAGNUSON: Well, Vern Mikkelsen, thanks very much, and congratulations.

VERN MIKKELSEN: Thank you very much.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Vern Mikkelsen, former Minneapolis Lakers basketball player, talking with the FM News Station's Greg Magnuson. Mikkelsen is being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame today. Next week on Voices, as part of Midmorning, we hear from Rosalie Wahl, retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, the first woman named to the state high court.


Minnesota Public Radio News is supported by 3M, generously matching more than 800 employee contributions to MPR. It's 10:30. Here's Karen Barta with the news.

KAREN BARTA: Good morning. An attorney who sued Dow Corning over breast implants says the company will still have to pay despite filing for bankruptcy protection. Stanley Chesley says Dow Corning has the assets to pay those who claim implants harmed their health.

White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta says Republicans need to move off some key points of their budget plans. Panetta told NBC that GOP leaders must drop a proposed tax cut if they want to negotiate with the White House on a longterm budget plan.

A legislative committee will hold its first hearing on a proposal to have the state help buy the Winnipeg Jets hockey team. The bill, before the House Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs Committee, would give the Metro Sports Facilities Commission authority to work out a deal to help private owners bring the team to Minneapolis. DFLer Dee Long chairs the committee. She says prospects for the aid package aren't very good right now.

DEE LONG: Legislators are hearing from constituents. And by and large, the constituents are not supportive. If this thing were to have any chance, it would not only have to be the legislature which would have to be convinced, and I think that may be a tough sell, but the public.

KAREN BARTA: The bill's author, DFLer Bob Milbert, says he hopes the committee won't vote until it's clear whether local investors in Winnipeg will be able to buy the team. The deadline for that decision is Thursday.

The state forecast today, partly sunny. Highs ranging from the middle 50s in the far northeast to the middle 70s in the southwest. For the Twin Cities, partly sunny, high around 70. Partly cloudy overnight with a 20% chance of a shower or thunderstorm and a low in the lower to middle 50s. Around the region, it's sunny in Rochester. The current temperature is 60 degrees. In St. Cloud, it's 57. It's 50 in Duluth and 65 in the Twin Cities. Paula, that's a news update from the FM News Station.

PAULA SCHROEDER: OK. Thanks, Karen. 28 minutes before 11 o'clock. This is Midmorning. I'm Paula Schroeder. Minnesota Public Radio operates in association with the following institutions-- St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Concordia College in Moorhead, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, and the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.

Well, there are a lot of high school students who are wondering if they're going to get into any of those colleges, or others, come this time of year. They are waiting to see if they've been accepted to the school of their choice, wondering, are their grades good enough? Did they do well enough on the ACT and the SAT, those college admissions tests? Well, a report by the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota questions the criteria that universities use for deciding which students to admit.

The Institute's Center for School Change says most colleges use grades and course credit requirements as admission standards, but Joe Nathan, the center's director, says that system does not consider variations in how students are graded from school to school. He says an A in one school does not mean the same as an A at another school, and a better method for evaluating students is a competency-based system. Well, joining me on the line to talk about grades versus competency is Dr. Jim Mootz, who is director of admissions at Winona State University. Good morning, Dr. Mootz.

JIM MOOTZ: Good morning.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Now, first of all, can you tell us what is the difference between grades, and the standard college admission tests, and competency?

JIM MOOTZ: Well, I think, Paula, that there's been a long history in higher education of admitting young people to a university based on their grades in high school, and also based on an admissions test score, such as the ACT or the SAT. And what I read from this morning's newspaper, as you're reporting from the Humphrey Institute and Joe Nathan's comments, is that maybe there's a time for change. And I think Winona State University would be very supportive of that.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Hmm. When you look at the current system of class rank and the standardized test scores, do you get the sense that you're missing something in looking at a student?

JIM MOOTZ: Oh, very definitely. There's a tremendous number of people, young students, applying to a university. And when you deal with volumes of paperwork, volumes of applications, you really only see the student as they look on paper. What classes did they take, what grades did they get, and what is their test score?

And of course, we look at a lot of other things too in a portfolio, such as clubs and organizations they've belonged to or athletic teams that they've participated in, their work program. But I certainly agree with Joe Nathan at the Humphrey Institute that, is an A an A, or is an A at one school a B at another school? And from the outside, you don't know that.

PAULA SCHROEDER: This would really change a lot of things for high schools, wouldn't it, in terms of how they evaluate students? I know that there are some schools, such as the St. Paul Open School, that require students to keep portfolios of what they have learned that really demonstrates that competency. But most high schools don't do that.

JIM MOOTZ: Well, I think they haven't up until now. I know there's experimental schools out there that are using portfolios. We at Winona State University have used some portfolios for selected students over the past few years. And we've heard here in the state of Minnesota, the new graduation standards which will be implemented in the year 2000, which talks about rather than certain courses, certain competencies. That they have to have a certain competency level in reading or math or writing, science, whatever it may be.

And I think we're looking, in today's society, at a different way of evaluating education, and that you just can't assume that because you sit in a class for one year and you get an A or a B or a C, that you've gained knowledge in that area. We've called it the Carnegie unit that's been around higher education for years. It's called seat time-- because I was there, I must have learned something.

And I think what the Humphrey Institute is promoting, and we hear it across the country, is don't tell me how long have you been in the class. Show me what you have learned. Have you got a portfolio? Can you demonstrate, this is the knowledge I have gained, and I can use it out in the real world? So competency education has certainly had lots of viewings, not only in Minnesota, but across the nation. And a lot of people have plus sides of it, and some people have a negative side of it. But I think with change, there's always a lot of question.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Mm-hmm. If colleges and high schools were to go to this kind of a system, what would that do to the whole concept of grades? Would they mean anything anymore?

JIM MOOTZ: Well, unless the competencies are graded-- an A competency, a B competency-- grades would be out the window. A high school rank would no longer have a value. Rather than where do you rank in your senior class, show us what you have learned and show us your knowledge, and can you demonstrate the information that you have assimilated over the past number of years? So grades would not be part of an admissions policy, nor would rank, but rather the high schools would determine their students at different competency levels.

And that's really the small dilemma. I think it certainly can be delineated, because it's being done in other states that are more advanced at this point in competency-based education than Minnesota. We can look to our neighbors to the east. Wisconsin is quite a ways down the road on competency-based education, and the state of Oregon has done extensive research and study in it. So it's new to Minnesota, but it's certainly not new to the nation.

PAULA SCHROEDER: You know, this sounds an awful lot like outcome-based education, that you want students to be able to be competent in a particular subject area. Do you think that-- and there's been a lot of controversy about that over the past couple of years in Minnesota. Do you think that this will lead to more OBE?

JIM MOOTZ: Well, I'm not going to talk about OBE because I think it has a negative connotation. OBE is simply outcomes-based education. And as a college administrator, Winona State University is not real concerned how they assess the outcomes, how they assess the competencies. And there's many areas out there, many different varieties of ways of proving that I know the material. OBE is just one avenue of outcomes-based, but there are many other ways of determining assessment and competencies as well. So it certainly is related, but I think it's in a much broader context.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Mm-hmm. Dr. Mootz, you are director of admissions at Winona State University, and certainly you have some systems and procedures in place for assessing the applicants that come into your office. If you were to go to a system like this, of doing more competency-based review of these applications, wouldn't that require a lot more staff time?

JIM MOOTZ: Well, I think it does when you talk about the written word, rather than seeing that this person took calculus in high school, and they got an A or B. In terms of outcome-based education or assessments in a different way, other than seat time in the normal grading process, there's probably some kind of a documentary piece that says, here's the competencies of this person within the mathematics area or the English or the writing area.

So it's very possible that it would require more staff time to review these applications, just as it will take a lot more individual student time, teacher time, in the high school. We're talking about smaller classes, more personal intervention into each student's lives. And I think there is dollar sign attached to it, and that's really where a lot of the things in assessment and outcomes has really dragged our feet, because of the necessary dollars to follow it.

However, in fairness to that, I would like to think that we in America and we here in Minnesota can solve those problems. We're in the technology era of communication, and I really do believe that competency-based education can be documented very easily and very quickly through some kind of a transcript that would hopefully delineate the time for administrators. And let's put the money in the classroom, where it's needed.

PAULA SCHROEDER: All right. Dr. Mootz, thank you so much for joining us today and explaining this concept to us. Dr. Jim Mootz is director of admissions at Winona State University, commenting on a Humphrey Institute report that questions the criteria that universities use for deciding which students to admit.


It's 18 minutes before 11 o'clock. You're listening to Midmorning.


RAY SUAREZ: Talk of the Nation's going shopping. We're hitting the Mall of America Thursday, and you're invited to come along. I'm Ray Suarez asking you to be part of the audience for our special broadcast from the mall, Thursday from 1:00 until 3:00. Join us in the shadow of the Screaming Yellow Eagle for Talk of the Nation at the Mall of America, Thursday. I hope to see you there.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Coming up at 11 o'clock this morning, President Clinton is scheduled to make an address at the memorial for police officers, the 14th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, and we will be carrying that live here on the FM News Station. The president is expected to discuss recent attacks on peace officers and antiterrorism legislation that he is seeking in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Beautiful day expected across the state of Minnesota today with partly sunny skies. Highs from the mid-50s in the Duluth area to the mid-70s in the southwest. In the Twin Cities, partly sunny with a high today around 70 degrees. It's 17 minutes before 11:00.

DAN OLSON: Eastern European countries want to join the European Union. On the next Midday, we'll hear what it means for US trade. Hello, I'm Dan Olson. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt is a European specialist, and on the next Midday, we'll hear his comments. War in the Balkans and perilous political conditions in Russia are affecting European politics. Midday begins at 11:00 with Gary Eichten's summary of news, then listen at noon for Carl Bildt on politics in Europe on the FM News Station, including KNOW-FM 91.1 in the Twin Cities.

PAULA SCHROEDER: And for now, Midmorning continues on the FM News Station. I'm Paula Schroeder. Frank Zappa, considered by many to be one of rock music's most original artists, once owned all the rights to his master recordings. This is no small feat in the music industry, due to the fact that most recordings are owned by the record companies responsible for producing the albums.

Failing health eventually caused Zappa to sell the rights to his music in order to provide for his family. Rykodisc is currently the owner of this musical library, and Steve Rowland reports that all 72 of Frank Zappa's original recordings are now being released on CD.

STEVE ROWLAND: Frank Zappa was a composer from the beginning. He started writing classical music when he was a teenager, inspired by the modern works of the late French composer Edgard Varese.

FRANK ZAPPA: I didn't write a rock and roll song until I was in my 20s. And the only reason I put a rock and roll band together is because I couldn't get anybody to play any of the chamber music or orchestra music that I had written when I was a teenager. There was no way to do it. So if I was ever going to hear anything that I wrote on paper, I would have to have my own band.

And so you can't always-- if you're going to put a band together, you don't have your choice of the finest musicians in the world on day one. You're lucky to get anybody to be in your band. So I started off with a high level of expectations and a high level of interest and just theoretical music, which I had to either put on the shelf or totally discard for 25 years while I was working with rock musicians.


Motherly love

Forget about the brotherly and otherly love

Motherly love is just a thing for you

You know your mother's going to love you

Till you don't know what to do

The mother's got love that'll drive you mad

They're raving about the way that we do

Don't need to feel lonely

STEVE ROWLAND: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention recorded their first album, Freak Out, in 1965. Years later, Zappa sued several record companies to retrieve the rights to his early albums. And for the rest of his career, unlike so many other musicians, he retained control over his music artistically and legally.

Zappa and his wife Gail had their own record label, studio, publishing company, even their own mail-order business. And Zappa saved everything-- original session tracks, live recordings, even old interviews-- in a climate-controlled vault underneath their California home. Accountant Ira Herzog works closely with Gail Zappa.

IRA HERZOG: The attorneys, by and large, in this business, keep on making the same deals, give or take a few bucks or a couple of percentage points. Frank has said, screw this. I don't want anybody owning my masters. I want to control my own destiny. And because of that situation, I will make the types of deals that I can make.

STEVE ROWLAND: In the mid-1980s, Zappa made a deal with a new record company, Rykodisc, to distribute his recordings on CD, but he still retained the ownership of the masters. In 1993, knowing that he was dying of prostate cancer, Zappa told his wife to sell the entire catalog of previously released albums to Rykodisc in order to provide for his family.


His widow Gail says that the body of work that is coming out on CD now, diverse as it is, is really one long composition.

GAIL ZAPPA: I think composers, for the most part, tend to write that one piece of music, and they get certain ideas and they develop those ideas, but it's in a certain context. And I think that all of Frank's music is so recognizably Frank's that it's as individual as his fingerprint. It's like the person never changes, so why should their music be any different? It's the same person. They just grow.


Throughout his career, Zappa mixed classical music, jazz, blues, tapes of people talking, doo-wop, and hard rock in his compositions. Saxophonist and keyboard player Ian Underwood says all of that was in Zappa's music the first time he heard the Mothers in 1967.

IAN UNDERWOOD: It was just something that you just wouldn't see anyplace at all, and it was just very interesting to me. It's what, typical in those days, went from pop, their versions of the popular tunes, to long improvisations, to little things from Stravinsky and from Varese, and just all jumbled up and coming at times where it was interesting to make a shift. And obviously, Frank would make the shift just on the fly. And what I liked about it myself was the fact that it really was little bits of all the music that I liked.


CHARLES AMIRKHANIAN: I think the ability of Zappa to relate to many forms of music and incorporate them into his work stems from his originality as a human being.

STEVE ROWLAND: Charles Amirkhanian is a composer and was a friend of Zappa's.

CHARLES AMIRKHANIAN: Very much later-- I'm referring now to composers born in the '60s and '70s who studied in the European classical tradition. We have a group of individuals who do not differentiate between influences from, let's say, traditional ethnic musics of various cultures, doo-wop, pop, rock, and so forth. In fact, they embrace all these things. But Zappa, before all of these notions were acceptable, anticipated this idea, and did so in a way which was ahead of its time.


STEVE ROWLAND: Zappa struggled to have his orchestral music played properly. He found that the strict training of most classical musicians made it difficult for them to play his compositions, because his music was so different from what they were used to. Eventually, Zappa found two outlets for realizing his music as he heard it. One was a German group of musicians, the Ensemble Modern.


Zappa's other outlet was an instrument, the synclavier. While a synthesizer recreates or synthesizes musical notes, the synclavier stores digital recordings of actual instruments. The composer can write for an entire orchestra and hear it played back by the synclavier.


Civilization Phaze III illustrates Gail Zappa's theory of the continuity in her late husband's work. One of his last projects was in fact an extension of one of his very first. During a recording session in 1967, Zappa set up a pair of microphones inside a grand piano and recorded people speaking across the strings. Some of the voices appeared on the album Lumpy Gravy. Others remained in his vault until 1993, when he used them on Civilization Phaze III.

SPEAKER 1: It doesn't it bother you as much as outside. You sneak in.

SPEAKER 2: Lucky you found such a big piano.

SPEAKER 1: You sneak under the back, see? Way down here. Way down here, there, inside. And when you hide in the corner nobody can find you. See? They can't hear nothing because it's cushioned.


STEVE ROWLAND: As inventive and meticulous as he was, Zappa remained amazed by the process of creating music.

FRANK ZAPPA: There's just certain technical things in music that, if you just listen to it on the gut level and the heart level and the so on and so forth level, you take it for granted and don't realize what a miracle it is that somebody put it on a piece of paper, and then somebody else played it. I mean, it's miraculous.

You're making something out of nothing. You just grab notes out of thin air, and you put it on a piece of paper, and through this long, stupid process of copying black dots on pieces of paper and handing them to people and somebody waves a stick in the air, the net result is this musical organism that you can listen to. It's a miracle.

STEVE ROWLAND: Composer Frank Zappa. For National Public Radio, I'm Steve Rowland.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Reminder that coming up at 11 o'clock this morning on the FM News Station, we'll hear a live address by President Clinton at the 14th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service. He's expected to discuss recent attacks on law enforcement officers. First, here's Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor.


GARRISON KEILLOR: And here is The Writer's Almanac for Monday, the 15th of May, 1995. It's the day of the high spring tides, the perigean spring tides that occur when the moon is nearest the Earth, which it is at 11:00 this morning, Eastern time. It is the feast day of San Isidro in Mexico, honoring St. Isidore, the plowman.

It's the anniversary of the day on which George Wallace was shot in 1972, in Laurel, Maryland, while campaigning for the presidency. It was on this day in 1930, 11 passengers got on board the United Airlines tri-motor Boeing 80A in Oakland, California, on their way to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and were greeted by the world's first air hostess, Mrs. Ellen Church.

It's the birthday of L. Frank Baum, born in 1856 on this day in Chittenango, New York. He was a journalist in Aberdeen, South Dakota, then in Chicago, started writing books. And his second book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was the one that made him famous. The story of Dorothy, a farm girl in Kansas who's blown by a cyclone to the land of Oz, where she meets the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and a Cowardly Lion.

It's the birthday of the Scottish poet Edwin Muir in 1887, on this date, and the American novelist and short story writer Katherine Anne Porter, born in 1890 in Indian Creek, Texas. The author of many books of stories including Flowering Judas, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and her one novel, Ship of Fools, which came out in 1962.

It's the birthday of Richard J. Daley, born in 1902 in Chicago in a little brick house in the Bridgeport section of the city, the son of an Irish sheet metal worker. He was the mayor of Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley, for 22 years. Grew up on that block in Bridgeport, and when he died, he was still living in a little brick house on South Lowe Avenue just a few doors down from his birthplace.

It's the anniversary of the birth of Tenzing Norgay, born in 1914 in a Sherpa village in Nepal. He, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, were the first two men to reach the summit of Mount Everest. And it's the birthday in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, of the American painter and graphic artist Jasper Johns.

Here's a poem by Donald Justice entitled, "To a Ten-Months' Child," inscribed, "For MM."

"To a ten-months' child. Late arrival, no one would think of blaming you for hesitating so. Who, setting his hand to knock at a door so strange as this one, might not draw back? Certainly, once admitted, you will be made to feel like one of the invited. Still, because you come from so remote a kingdom, you may feel out of place, tongue-tied and shy, among so many strangers all babbling a strange tongue. Well, that's no disgrace. So might any person so recently displaced, remembering the ocean, so calm, so lately crossed."

A poem by Donald Justice, "To a Ten-Months' Child," from his collection The Summer Anniversaries, published by Wesleyan University Press and used here by permission on The Writer's Almanac for Monday, the 15th of May. Made possible by Cowles Magazines, publishers of British Heritage and other magazines. Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

PAULA SCHROEDER: That's Midmorning for this Monday, May 15. And a beautiful one it is. Look for a high of 70 in the Twin Cities, 75 in the southwestern part of the state. Tune in again tomorrow. We'll be talking about mental health and its image in our society with Kathy Kelso, the executive director of the state Mental Health Association. That's tomorrow on Midmorning.

JOHN RABE: I'm John Rabe, and on the next All Things Considered, a 10-week outpatient program serving chemically dependent African-Americans. It's All Things Considered, every day at 4:00 on the FM News Station, KNOW-FM 91.1.

PAULA SCHROEDER: You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. Sunny skies and 65 degrees at the FM News Station, KNOW-FM 91.1, Minneapolis-St. Paul.


GARY EICHTEN: Good morning. It's 11 o'clock and this is Midday on the FM News Station. I'm Gary Eichten. In the news this morning, President Clinton is continuing his push for antiterrorism legislation. The president will be speaking this morning at a ceremony in Washington honoring law enforcement officials who have died in the line of duty. That legislation, the antiterrorism legislation, is bogged down in Congress, with Republicans calling for a parallel investigation into the Waco assault. We'll be carrying the president's comments live just as soon as he begins.

Japanese authorities are rounding up the leaders of the doomsday cult suspected in the Tokyo nerve gas attack. Minnesota legislature has begun the final week of the '95 legislative session. A key house committee holds a hearing this evening on the Winnipeg.


Digitization made possible by the State of Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, approved by voters in 2008.

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